On Friday, January 22, 2016, a 35-year-old Minnesota man lost his life after being severely burned the previous day at a construction site in Lakeville, Minnesota. Our thoughts are with the family.
Last Thursday, January 21, 2016, a fire, possibly caused by a propane heater explosion, severely burned a construction manager who was checking on the propane heaters in the basement of the house being constructed at 19343 Impala Avenue, Lakeville, MN.1 The fire, which started in the basement, is being investigated by the Minnesota Fire Marshal’s office and Lakeville Fire Department.2 As required by law, the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Minnesota OSHA) was notified.
Propane heaters were running in the basement, according to FOX9 news. The house was being built by Lennar Corp.1
Propane, liquid petroleum gas (LP-gas), is odorless and must, by law, be odorized so that people will be able to detect a gas leak by smell. The odorant generally used is ethyl mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs. We have handled cases where the ethyl mercaptan faded, resulting in little or no smell when there was a leak. Without the rotten egg smell, a person can be surrounded by dangerous propane gas and not know it. It takes very little to ignite it.
How Does Propane Lose Its Smell?
Ethyl mercaptan fading is generally caused by one of both of the following:
- oxidation of ethyl mercaptan caused by iron oxide in a storage tank; or
- absorption into the lining of the tank.
The oxidation and absorption is faster with a new propane heater tank (a possible scenario at a house construction site), and slows down after several fillings. Because of the risk of odorant fade, the following must be done:
- When a tank is filled, particularly a new tank, it must be filled to about 80%;
- The propane must not be allowed to sit unused.
If there is sufficient evidence that a propane explosion was caused by odor fade or a defective product, the companies responsible can be sued for compensation. Filing a lawsuit is important because it is often the only way to get corporate documents and other evidence that can prove negligence.
The Fire Marshall’s office has not released information stating that a propane tank explosion caused the deadly fire in Lakeville, and even if this was the cause, it will take time to determine why it happened.
Attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman help clients with complex cases requiring independent investigations. They help families with wrongful death claims get answers and compensation. It is free to talk to Fred and Eric, and we are not paid unless you win (contingency fee). This means our law firm pays all experts hired for the independent investigation and takes on all other expenses until we win your case. You can contact Fred and Eric using our free consultation form or by calling 612-338-0202.